Updated: News Media Code passed by parliament

The Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2021 has been passed by the Senate, with a raft of amendments and has now been passed by parliament (today, 25 February).

Third reading of the bill was agreed to by the house late last night (24 February).

Earlier in the week the Morrison Government introduced further amendments to the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which resulted in Facebook resuming negotiations with the government and media outlets, and subsequently agreeing to reintroduce news to its platform for Australian users.

“The expression of the remuneration amount as a lump sum is intended to give each of the bargaining parties certainty about how much money will be paid in relation to covered news content over the term of the agreement,” stated the amendment.

Other key amendments include decisions to designate a platform under the code “must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses”.

A digital platform is now also required to be notified of the government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision, “noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification”.

Earlier today, Facebook  VP of global affairs Nick Clegg, shared a blog titled: The Real Story of What Happened With News on Facebook in Australia.

In it he states that the code as it stood, would have forced Facebook, to “pay potentially unlimited amounts of money to multi-national media conglomerates under an arbitration system that deliberately misdescribes the relationship between publishers and Facebook”.

It added: “There are legitimate concerns to be addressed about the size and power of tech companies, just as there are serious issues about the disruption the internet has caused to the news industry. These need to be solved in a way that holds tech companies accountable and keeps journalism sustainable. But a new settlement needs to be based on the facts of how value is derived from news online, not an upside-down portrayal of how news and information flows on the internet.

“The internet needs new rules that work for everyone, not just for big media corporations. New rules only work if they benefit more people, not protect the interests of a few.”

The revised bill has since added that a “responsible digital platform corporation” can differentiate between news media businesses on the basis of a commercial agreement and can remunerate different news media businesses differently under different commercial agreements, without breaching the non-differentiation clause.

The bill updates the period for which negotiations can be undertaken before going to mediation and final arbitration to three months.

The code will be reviewed by Treasury within one year of its commencement to ensure it is delivering outcomes that are consistent with the government’s policy intent.


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